Troisième enregistrement de ce magnifique trio, sans hésitation unes des toutes meilleures associations d’improvisateurs en exercice. Enregistrées respectivement à Zagreb et Aachen en 2003 et 2009, ces deux concerts fournissent la matière précieuse des deux compacts de Spielä. Le farfadet juvénile de la percussion libérée qui nous avait tant enchanté dans notre prime jeunesse, nous revient tel un vieux sage, savant de l’épure et du geste essentiel, Paul Lovens. Ce magicien hors norme a trouvé un alter-ego incontournable, le contrebassiste John Edwards, un des improvisateurs les plus demandés (Butcher, Weston, Parker, Dunmall, Brötzmann, Steve Noble, Mark Sanders etc…). C’est à cet aune, qu’il faille apprécier le tromboniste Paul Hubweber, un musicien trop sous-estimé, sans doute parce que sexagénaire, sa carrière a décollé sur le tard malgré une créativité et des capacités musicales sans égal. Suivez son cheminement et ses albums à la trace et vous découvrirez un improvisateur insaisissable capable d’adapter son jeu au plus profond avec ses divers collaborateurs tout en continuant sa trajectoire esthétique et en maintenant ce qui fait de lui un improvisateur essentiel. Pour ma part, je vous dirais que, depuis la disparition de Rutherford et de Mangelsdorff, il y a George Lewis, et puis, Paul Hubweber. Mais surtout, ce trio vaut pour son alchimie particulière, la symbiose des sons, des timbres avec un équilibre fragile des dynamiques, une invention renouvelée de formes. Pour Alex Schlippenbach, PaPaJo est le trio qui exprime le mieux les qualités de la musique libre depuis ces quinze dernières années. On y trouve presque tous les éléments qui créent toute la fascination que cette musique procure sur ses auditeurs : simplicité, complexité, dérivation du free-jazz ou du contemporain, changement perpétuel des paramètres des sons et de la pratique instrumentale, écoute mutuelle, indépendance et entente tacite, invention et tentative simultanée et risquée d’idées les plus folles, surprises, variété kaléidoscopique des timbres … Si Paul Lovens est un des percussionnistes les plus « vite », PaPaJo, « lui », prend le temps de jouer, chacun laissant de l’espace à l’autre afin que les sonorités soient lisibles et que la musique respire. Cette qualité primordiale distingue PaPaJo de la lingua franca du free jazz, alors que la mélodie détournée (évocation de Loverman ou d’une ballade d’Ellington) et le pizz charnu d’Edwards s’y rattachent. Un double album de référence qui devrait fédérer bien des auditeurs éparpillés sur les micro-univers de l’improsphère. Jean-Michel van Schouwburg (Orynx)
Just because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is celebrated for her role as Elaine Benes on the Seinfeld TV series didn’t means that she wasn’t accepted as Selina Meyer on the show Veep. It’s the same with Paul Lovens. Sure the German drummer may be acclaimed as one-third of the long-running – 44 years and counting – Schlippenbach Trio, but he plays just as important a part in PaPaJo, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year.
Showcased in concerts that took place when the trio had been together a mere two years (record one) and eight years (record two), this two-CD set shows that like Louis-Dreyfus talking another role PaPaJo doesn’t have to play proverbial second fiddle to any other aggregation. Unlike the Schlippenbach Trio’s piano-saxophone-drums configuration, it’s bull fiddle played by London’s John Edwards, which is one of PaPaJo’s most characteristic features. Ironically, Edwards has a long history with BritImprovisers such as saxophonist Evan Parker, who with Lovens makes up two-thirds of the Schlippenbach trio, along with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. In contrast, the other “Pa” in PaPaJo is idiosyncratic trombonist Paul Hubweber, who shares with Lovens the home town of Aachen.
Although initially conceived of as a vehicle for the trombonist, drummer and the late Peter Kowald, there’s no awkwardness in the interaction among this three, even as early as 2003. Starting with the almost 24½-minute showpiece “S C”, like the secondary characters on a sitcom added for variety but who become viewers’ favorites, Edwards rounded buzzes and lumberjack-string string smacks confirm group symmetry as much as Lovens’ hoof-beat-like patterns and the trombonist’s stentorian growls. Here and elsewhere sliding among mellow lip slurs, machinegun-like rapid brass bites and long-lined pseudo-tailgate echoing tones, Hubweber shakes loose unique chromatic tones that upset the others no more than to extemporize new dialogue during a broadcast would be for assured thespians.
That’s just the beginning of the synergy engendered by the three. A track such as “Sla Bamba” is seeded throughout with instances of almost textbook jazz-swing, while “Trobadus” like an alternate reading of a text is concerned with extended and advanced techniques. “Sla Bamba” suggests what would happen if a radical collectivist trope inserted itself into a straight drama as the trombonist adds near cornet-pitched flutters that are as lean as they are linear to an essentially two-beat exposition. Meanwhile “Trobadus” evolves in a Janus-like fashion with a section of unabashed swing via double bass slaps and metallic rim shots and woody pops from Lovens’ contrasting with a variety of experimental effects from all three. These include Hubweber growls that could emanate from an elongated garden hose; the drummer’s bell-pealing and triangle ping accents; and rugged up-and-down string pumps. The most dazzling instance of the bassist’s skill is on “T’ Guyz” where he builds up a section of spiccato and sul ponticello strokes that in squeakiness and speed mocks jester-like the leisurely output of the other two.
Record two is like the flash forward in a TV show that fleshes in character development. Revealing further richness to the PaPaJo partnership, Edwards overcomes his Bruce Johnson with the Beach Boys fill-in role to direct the improvisations as often as the two Germans. The introductory “Acart Beat” for example not only gains its initial shape from the bassist’s double-stropping into, but like the climatic point in a drama also shifts the piece towards systematic tonality half way through with woody string resonations. Before this, Hubweber juggles open-horn blats and muted dribbles with artisanal skill, as Lovens’ attributes likewise evolve from knocking pulses to a rhythmic two step. Other tracks such as “Donnalittchen” find the two Pauls emerging like a mythical two-headed beast. Slashing skin rumbles from the drummer plus low pitches that seem evacuated from renal positions evolve and echo simultaneously guided by Edwards’ perambulating twangs.
Although it doesn’t end the program, “Scratches ‘N Satches” is its climax with more than 23 minutes in which to demonstrate the virtuosic skill that had intensified over the preceding half-decade. Like lines in a triangle which must intersect in order to create an outline, each player’s strategy is carefully balanced. String slaps from Edwards meet equivalent ones from Lovens; and when Hubweber attains the zenith of a shrill snarl, that tone has the companionship of squeaking upper-range slashes from the bassist and chiming tones from the drummer’s cymbals. The tune ends strikingly but incongruously with Lovens smacking the sort of clip-clops expected from a stage coach nag as Hubweber sounds the heraldic brass tones that signaled the arrival of the post from some itinerant source.
More than being Lovens’ second trio PaPaJo makes a powerful statement on its own. But considering the sessions here are from 2003 and 2009, there’s obvious need for a newer program. Ken Waxman (JazzWord)
PaPaJo is an acronym neatly hinting at the names of the trio's members, all giants of the European improv community — the German pair of trombonist Paul Hubweber and drummer Paul Lovens, plus British bassist John Edwards. The group first came together in 2001 and has reconvened regularly since, although this is only their third album release, following PaPaJo (Emanem, 2002) and Simple Game (Cadence, 2008). Issued to mark the group's fifteenth anniversary, the double album Spiela does not feature recent material but, as with those earlier discs, contains concert recordings, from Zagreb in May 2003 and Aachen in May 2009, lasting seventy-one and forty-four minutes, respectively.
Right from the opening track from 2003, "S C", one of the key ingredients of the trio's success is obvious: this is not a conventional trio of lead instrument plus supporting rhythm section but a symmetrical alliance in which each of the three plays an equal role with none of them leading or dominating the others. Each of them is an instantly recognisable voice with their own personal vocabulary and syntax, so it would be difficult to mistake them for anyone else. Those three individual voices manage to remain distinct as they combine into one collective voice. Without any of the three, the group sound and identity would be radically shifted and diminished.
Across nearly two hours, the music here is mercurial and defies easy pigeon-holing as much as the three individuals responsible for it. Improvised throughout, and constantly shifting, it has elements that will keep jazz fans returning time and again for more. But the group ethos seems based upon unpredictability and risk-taking, so anyone hoping to settle down into a comfortable groove is in for a few surprises along the way; time and again, the three abandon any semblance of jazz and veer off into passages of freely-improvised noise, only to reverse the process just as unexpectedly. That is achieved without any disconcerting non-sequiturs or shocks, in fact with an admirable sense of logic that is sure to carry listeners along with them. Given the quality of PaPaJo's music, three releases in fifteen years seems far too few. We must hope for more, and for more recent examples of their work. Meanwhile, Spiela is a release to savour. John Eyles (The Squid’s Ear)